Photo: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90

Is it time for soul-searching and spiritual reckoning over the death and destruction in Gaza?

This is a segment from The “Reckonings” Edition.


And now it is time for our second discussion.

So Linda, should we be searching our souls? – Well, that’s a good question.

There was a moving exchange at last week’s conference of the believing left, Hasmol Ha’emuni, between friend of the podcast, educator, journalist, and peace activist, Itai Flesher, and member of Knesset for the Labor Party, Rabbi Gilad Kariv.

Itai Flesher says.

(Itai speaking in foreign language) (audience laughing) – I watch the news every evening and I see the pain of all the hostages and all the bereaved families, the people from the Nova Festival.

And after that, I also see foreign media every evening.

And I see hungry families in Gaza.

I see bereaved families there.

I see people doing surgery without anesthesia.

And it causes me a great deal of pain too, as a Jew.

You talked about a spiritual reckoning, Rabbi Kariv, after the war, and I’m not asking you in a political way, but in a moral way as a rabbi.

Do we, the Jewish people, need to do a spiritual reckoning about what happened in Gaza too?

And a grave Rabbi Gilad Kariv answers, among other things, that.

(Rabbi speaking in foreign language) – Over the past four months, a phenomenon has occurred in Israeli media, in Israeli discourse, a phenomenon that can be understood by virtue of the scale of the horror of the disaster of Simchat Torah.

We can perhaps understand it, but it is important to look clear-eyed at the damage it causes.

Israeli society ignores the dimension of the destruction and the human cost to the Palestinian public in Gaza.

The phenomenon is that our cup of revenge and rage that is found in the hearts of each of us, the fact that they do not show us what is happening there in Gaza, is the reason why our cup of revenge and rage does not fill up.

And then, instead of us being in the position where, if we saw the pictures, after several weeks of military action, that in my eyes was necessary and right, including for the two-state solution, whoever thinks that if Hamas remains as the ruling force in Gaza, there is any future for the Palestinian Authority or the peace process with moderate forces, in my eyes, is not reading the map correctly, because vanquishing Hamas is a condition for a two-state solution.

What I say about this matter is that, unambiguously, we must start to look unflinchingly at the extent of the destruction, and we can say the human horror that is taking place in Gaza, because, to my regret, without this, we won’t be able to stop ourselves.

And already, it has to be said, we have missed a great deal of what we ought to have done in the past two months.

We need to begin to see what is happening in Gaza.

Allison, what should we think of this answer to the question, with its interesting mixture of media criticism and psychodynamic theory?

And if you’re not perfectly satisfied with it, how would you answer Itay Flesher’s question about the moral reckoning? – Well, I don’t think we need to begin to see what is happening in Gaza.

I think we need to have seen what is happening in Gaza.

And that doesn’t necessarily mean that I think that we should have done differently, although maybe we would have done differently if we’d seen more, but I do think that there’s a big problem with the self-censorship of much of the Israeli media, much of Israelis, because they don’t need the Israeli media.

They can go online.

They can look into it themselves.

So I don’t know if it’s necessarily the job of the mainstream media in Israel to protect them from it by not showing things on the news here.

I think it’s extremely damaging to both our leaders and both our public to be, by whoever, themselves, their own mentality, the media, to be shielded from the actual knowledge of what is really happening in Gaza, because we can’t make considered decisions, especially when it comes to considered decisions, involving people in the world and leaders in the world who are exposed to it without having that knowledge ourselves and that’s a logical reason to need to know it and to face the reality of what’s going on on a humanitarian level in Gaza.

That’s a practical reason.

Obviously, there’s the more soul-searching reason, the spiritual reckoning, which I’m less, I guess, qualified to judge if it’s harming us spiritually or as moral people, the fact that we’re not looking at and not facing the consequences of our actions in Gaza.

And I’m not justifying or arguing against what we did, but I just think that we have to look reality square in the face and we have to look at what this is doing to the civilian population in Gaza.

So again, I’m not a rabbi, so I can’t necessarily address the spiritual reckoning, but I think on a practical level that a reckoning, spiritual and otherwise, and realistic assessment is lacking and needs to happen more.

It needs to have happened in the past as well. – I’m uncomfortable with the way that this discussion is often framed and the way that, certainly the way that Rav Kariv ended up framing his answer.

I don’t really think that there are that many people who don’t know what is happening in Gaza.

I haven’t met anyone, I don’t think, who doesn’t know.

It is true that we do not see on the television or in our papers or on the internet, except in the arts, we don’t see the pictures and we don’t hear the particular stories.

There’s no parallel between the intimacy of the way in which we know about really every victim, every immediate victim of October 7th and the fact that we do not have that intimacy with any of the victims, certainly not the kids and anyone, the families in Gaza, that’s true.

But I think that we know, because like you said, Allison, it’s easy to know, it’s easy to know from your computer, but also I think that all of us know from just talking to the soldiers who have been there, who come back and you say, “What did you see there?”

And everyone tells you, they tell you about the destruction of the houses and they tell you about the death there too.

They know what it is.

They just, it’s just, there are different interpretations of how much we ought to let that into our soul.

And there are people who have a theory that I don’t know to say is necessarily wrong that in the long run, there’ll be less human suffering and certainly less Israeli/Jewish suffering by carrying this thing through to its brutal and bloody end than there would be by stopping it or by not having done it at all.

And I think that somebody who believes that might also feel like there’s nothing to be gained by dwelling on all the horror that we are creating and that nobody is denying that we’re creating, even the people who think that it’s necessary.

But at the same time, I guess this is the first time I’m saying it on the podcast, but I’ve never thought that this war was the right thing to do.

I was just listening to some interview I did really like in the first week.

And before there was a war, when there was the bombing, but there was nothing much else.

And the person asked, so I guess you think that Israel needs to do a ground war it right now?

And I said, I don’t think that I think that, I don’t know.

But what I do know is that when we do do it, because it’s inevitable, I’m gonna be on the side of the people who are doing it entirely, completely.

And that’s where I’ve always been.

It always seemed to me like, gee, couldn’t we, it’s a strange and complicated and wondrous world where you can topple governments by changing the code in a computer and by organizing governments, maybe there is some other way to get rid of Hamas and to get the hostages back aside that didn’t involve destroying one third of all the homes in Gaza and killing 1% of all the people and injuring another 2% above that, which is I think where the numbers are more or less right now.

And I think that the fact that we did not look into that, or maybe it might be because it was impossible because what do I know?

I don’t know anything.

Maybe the people who made these decisions, maybe this really was the only and best thing to do.

I really don’t know.

But even if it was, even if all those people are right, that this is what we need to be doing.

And this is the thing that in the long run causes the least suffering.

And this is a morally justified thing to do.

Even if they’re all right, then there’s still the fact that there are all these people that including so many innocent people, say a third of the people who die are Hamas fighters, like the most expansive estimates on our side say, there’s still the two thirds of the people who aren’t.

And so I just, I think that, of course, like even if it was the morally right thing to do this, we still have to face up to the fact that we were morally unlucky enough to be in the position where we were sending our kids to kill innocent kids.

And the best case for that is that it was moral bad luck that we have this dilemma where all the options are terrible, are just terrible.

And we chose one of the terrible options.

We’re doing this terrible thing that we’re doing.

It’s just a fact.

And so that what Rav Kariv said about the media being responsible because we didn’t get enough revenge to slake our need for revenge, that all seems to me to be entirely wrong.

I don’t think there’s anything there that’s at all true, but the spirit behind Itay Flesher’s original question, I think is entirely right. – No, I would just add that right now, right?

As we’re sitting here talking, you’re in your comfortable teleview studio and I’m in my comfortable house in Jerusalem, children are dying of malnutrition.

And this is that, children are actually dying ’cause they don’t have enough food to eat.

And Israel says, well, we’re willing to allow food in.

It’s the UN, it’s a distribution issue.

A few weeks ago, there was a six-year-old Palestinian girl named Hind Rajab who was in a car with five family members and the car was fired on and everybody was killed except her and she managed to call the ambulance and said, please come help me, I’m all alone in this car and everybody has been killed.

And the Palestinian Red Crescent sent an ambulance and the ambulance was fired on.

They say that it was targeted by Israel, Israel says it wasn’t.

And this little girl, if you looked on any outlet except for Israel, there were many stories about her.

And in Israel, nobody knew anything about her and then she was eventually found dead after a couple of days.

And it’s just that, I mean, my heart breaks when I think about this.

I just, and I think that maybe we do have responsibility.

I mean, I also don’t like the whole revenge thing but his point of the fact that, Israel has responsibility for what’s happening and Noah, to go on what you said about the war, I mean, the question of whether getting rid of Hamas was a goal that ever should have been undertaken.

I spoke at the beginning of the war to Mikhail Milstein who used to be a senior Arab affairs person in the government and he said, Hamas is an idea that you can never get rid of.

And so by setting the goals of the war as getting rid of Hamas completely, we will destroy them, they won’t be there anymore.

And then of course, freedom for the hostages.

I think that that goal was not a good goal to begin with.

And what’s happened now is that, if Israel doesn’t go into Rafah, the Southern city next to Egypt, you’re basically leaving a weakened Hamas but still Hamas in power in some way.

What I’m saying is in some ways a little bit the opposite of the tenor of what you’re saying that we maybe end up in the same place, which is that, I don’t know if the war is right or wrong.

I have my doubts, but whether it’s right or wrong, I am all in on this war.

I’m part of this people, this people has made this decision and I am all in, which means that I, and I think we are all responsible for all this.

And that’s true whether what we’re doing is right or wrong or somewhere in between more on the right side or less on the right side.

And so a moral reckoning is necessary and that’s true even if the people who argue for the war are completely right, that this was the right decision to make, that doesn’t mean that we’re not the authors of something that’s really horrible, even if it’s not something that we should have chosen to do differently. – I disagree with you Noah when you say, oh, Israelis know and Karev calls to look unflinchingly at what’s going on.

And I think, and I’m present company included, I include myself is that we try to, I think, avoid knowing because we want to avoid feeling some of the feelings that Linda’s feels.

And I do think that we need to know and look more about it again, as I said, for practical reasons, because that’s what the world’s seeing as well as for the spiritual reckoning.

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